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“Pause” with Purpose in Speaking, Training, and Storytelling

By December 4, 2017November 20th, 2023No Comments
mark twain quote about the effectiveness of the pause

The art of the “pause” – knowing when to use a short one or long one – offers many benefits to speakers, presenters, and trainers alike. Mark Twain has a great phrase, “No word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause” (from Mark Twain’s Speeches ~1923).

Keep in mind that while everybody reads at a different speed, everyone listens at the same speed. The challenge…everyone comprehends in a different way. A pause helps smooth out the learning speed bumps. It lets your audience catch up and absorb what you just said.


  1. Is an elegant way to emphasize points
  2. Gives your audience important moments to process what you say
  3. Enables your audience to catch up, especially if you are a fast talker
  4. Makes you appear more confident, as you do not need to fill every second with words
  5. Adds tension and suspense
  6. Are very effective with international audiences. They allow your audience and translator to catch up to you (similar to #3)
  7. Keep your audiences engaged

People frequently ask us, “Won’t my audiences notice I am pausing on purpose? It doesn’t seem natural.”

Our answer, “Used appropriately, no one will know you are deliberately pausing. What they will think is that you are an effective speaker.”
If you are new to pausing, start using short pauses in your next conversation. Test out your effectiveness until you can master the pause. Then move on to public speaking and training.


Here’s an insight into Twain and how much he valued the pause:

That impressive silence, that eloquent silence, that geometrically progressive silence which often achieves a desired effect where no combination of words howsoever felicitous could accomplish it… For one audience, the pause will be short; for another a little longer; for another a shade longer still; the performer must vary the length of the pause to suit the shades of difference between audiences. … I used to play with the pause as other children play with a toy.
– Mark Twain, Autobiographical Dictation, 11 October 1907.

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Ira Koretsky

Ira Koretsky has built The Chief Storyteller® into one of the most recognized names in communication, especially business storytelling. He has delivered over 500 keynote presentations and workshops in nearly a dozen countries, in more than one hundred cities, across 30 plus industries. His specialties are simplifying the complex and communicating when the stakes are high. He is also an adjunct professor in public speaking and storytelling at the University of Maryland's Business School. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after storytelling coach, global speaker, trainer, consultant, communication coach, and public speaking coach.